Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by the author(s) do not represent the official position of Barbados TODAY.
by Shelly-Ann Forde
The world environment is dictating the need for Barbados to step up its efforts towards actionable steps for creating this ‘fiscal space’ that has become the buzzword. One place we could do this is our import bill.
Barbados’ import bill is $1.69 billion for a population of less than 300,000, $700 million of that bill is food. That is $466 per person per month spent on food and consumables. As a mother, when things get tight, I immediately look at my household spend, looking for ways I can quickly reduce and produce versus consume. Barbados needs to do the same. What’s more, is that a large proportion of this money spent ends up in the garbage.
I invite wholesalers to give an honest report of the percentage of goods disposed of annually because they have reached their sell by or expiry date. We are buying these products to dispose of them on a little island with no space for the amount of waste we produce.
One study showed that our landfills are filled with food waste. Do we need 20 brands of sweetened cereal, including strawberry Cheerios, on our grocery shelves when our population is struggling with Diabetes and Hypertension?
We can accomplish two goals, improved health and greater funds to funnel into other activities. I invite Barbadians to look at the profit reports of these companies annually, they are reaping profits at our expense. Time to take a look at the circular approach to sustainability.
We can create legislation that allows wholesalers to sell these products at reduced prices or give them to food banks and other entities without liability as many other countries are doing (see Canada), create specialty stores where customers can choose to purchase these items, but even better, we can agree that we do not need to import food in these quantities.We can use the fiscal space for:
• investments in alternative fuels – our single biggest import is petroleum and petroleum products – BL&P is the distributor of our electricity. If we cannot find an alternative to petroleum products for electricity distribution, we can have all the solar panels we want, if BL&P has no oil, we are all still without lights (see the work being done in Africa and the Philippines with coconut husks, mango seeds and other food byproducts we dispose of)
• single-use plastic alternatives – we are importing bagasse plates that are extremely expensive. What is bagasse? Cane trash, something we have at the end of every sugar season, which we dispose of and import plates made of the same material from across the world
• mulch and animal feed alternatives – from agricultural waste and cuttings – I applaud the efforts already begun
• health promotion and education – reduce the spending on diabetes and hypertension medications and invest in having the resources and policies we need to provide adequate health services
• innovation – baby formula is currently scarce and heavily subsidised by the government, can we produce alternatives?
Now is the time to put our comfortable, risk aversion aside and find ways to have money to invest, to put towards disaster planning and contingencies, to reduce the cost of living for the average Barbadian.